Albirex new attacker given 20-goal target
Morinaga is only 1.53m, but he has already scored seven goals in eight friendlies
Who could forget Albirex Niigata's lethal goal machine Tsubasa Sano from last season?
The departure of Sano, the 23-year-old who racked up 26 goals in the S.League (now Singapore Premier League), has left them with big shoes to fill.
But it looks like Albirex have found just the man in Taku "Little Giant" Morinaga, whose moniker comes from being 1.53 metres. With a seven-goal haul in the White Swans' eight friendlies, Morinaga will definitely be the one to look out for.
|ALBIREX NIIGATA||TAMPINES ROVERS|
In fact, Albirex chairman Daisuke Korenaga has even set a target for the fleet-footed 22-year-old.
Morinaga told The New Paper: "Personally, I aim to score at least a double digit (in terms of goals) this season.
"But, after my interview with the chairman, he set a target of at least 20 goals," he said with a chuckle, "so I'll have to get it.
"I also want to be a top scorer like Tsubasa Sano."
Morinaga, who is the smallest player in this season's SPL, said: "Based on the friendly matches I've played, I don't think my height is a disadvantage.
"I may be small but I've got speed and agility, so I'll use that to my advantage."
Morinaga was scouted by Albirex coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga during his time with Ryutsu Keizai University, where he had scored only two goals in four years.
Yoshinaga, however, feels that his previous record does not reflect on his true abilities, because oddly enough, Sano had also scored just two goals with Juntendo University before coming to Singapore.
We want Morinaga to become a player that opponents fear, and dislike playing against.Albirex coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga, on his new striker Taku Morinaga
Said Yoshinaga, who predicts a bright future for Morinaga: "I saw the potential in him and seeing his performance (in university), I believe that he can score more goals if he improved on his movements as a player up front.
"There is no like-for-like replacement for Sano or Kento Nagasaki, but we want Morinaga to become a player that opponents fear, and dislike playing against."
The White Swans will be almost exclusively an Under-23 squad this year - with the exception of just one overaged player - under the SPL's new youth-centric policies.
Despite their limitations, Yoshinaga eyes no less than a triple sweep - there is no League Cup this year - and is confident that his charges can deliver.
Yoshinagasaid: "The league will be difficult for all teams because of the changes in regulations. But I'm excited at the potential of our new team.
"I believe we will get better as the season goes on. We want to win everything again."
Other players who have also contributed to the White Swans' pre-season wins include captain Wataru Murofushi, and forwards Shuhei Hoshino and Kenya Takahasi, and Adam Swandi, one of the only two Singaporeans with them.
Takahashi, however, has played as a left-back in a number of friendly matches. When asked about Takahashi, who is listed as a forward on the Albirex website, Yoshinaga grinned and said: "Juergen Raab came to watch quite a few of our games (in pre-season), and I'd like to keep him guessing."
Ahead of Saturday's Community Shield season-opener between Albirex and Tampines Rovers at the National Stadium, Stags coach Raab said: "I saw the team three times. It doesn't matter who they field when we play them, but we will try our best to control the game."
Tampines will be missing Shannon Stephen, who is out for the entire season with a torn ACL, and Faizal Raffi, who is still nursing a dislocated elbow.
Raab added that it might take a month before Madhu Mohana, who has returned to the club, will be deemed match fit.
ButRaab believes that the Stags will have an edge over the White Swans, as they have already played five competitive matches in AFC competitions.
- Tickets priced at $5 (Cat 1) and $2 (concession) are available at www.fas.org.sg/tickets.
- Before Saturday's Community Shield, there will also be a curtain-raiser featuring Singapore legends like Fandi Ahmad and Malek Awab at 3.30pm.